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5 Things You Should Know About Shopping Online at Costco

5 Things You Should Know About Shopping Online at Costco

You don't need a membership to shop online—but you should read this first.

And we've been covering the best sales each month, too (here's what to look for in February). We've also found that, believe it or not, Costco lets you shop online—and you don't need a membership to do it.

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Unlike its stores, Costco.com is open to anyone and everyone with a debit or credit card and a Paypal account—but there are some special rules and regulations about shopping with the wholesaler online. For paying members, shopping online is as easy as logging into an account tied to your membership card.

But if you're interested in shopping at Costco.com and don't have a membership, here's what you need to know:

1) Some of the best deals are for members only

Photo courtesy of Costco.

More often than not, you'll find that certain promotions and steeply discounted items are marked as a "member only" deal. This month, for example, Costco is slashing the price of a brand new cordless Dyson V10 vacuum by $80—but you'll only be able to purchase the item with membership credentials. The easiest way around this, besides ponying up the $60 for a membership, is to ask a friend to make a purchase for you.

2) You won't be paying the same prices

In addition to dealing with member exclusives, non members will not enjoy the same price on online items as Costco membership holders. Shoppers will have to pay an additional five percent surcharge on each item ordered, so if you're thinking of using the site to order groceries, you might want to sign up for a membership instead.

3) To get groceries delivered, use another site

While you are able to purchase edible items directly on Costco.com, Instacart also offers same-day grocery delivery from Costco—even to non members. You'll have to pay higher prices on groceries than you would if you were a member, and there's also a $35 minimum on all orders. Costco notes that those using Instacart will not have access to warehouse deals, and Instacart will only deliver groceries (so you can't order appliances or furniture through this app).

4) Costco's return policy also applies online

Costco is known for a pretty generous return policy (but don't abuse it!) and this policy also works for products online. Purchases from Costco.com can be returned for a full refund by mail with no extra charge—plus, you can bring the item into your local Costco warehouse to make a return, even if you're not a Costco member.

5) Costco's price match also applies to past orders

You should know that there's a price match guarantee in place at Costco—but it only applies to items actually purchased at Costco and not at competitors. Fortunately, it applies to orders made online at Costco as well. If you've made a purchase online and notice that it becomes cheaper within 30 days, you can request a price match online here.


8 Things You Should Know Before Buying Booze At Costco

Once you read all these perks, you'll never stock up anywhere else.

1. You don't have to be a member to buy alcohol.

Many states have a law prohibiting stores from requiring membership to purchase alcohol, which means you can buy alcohol without a club card. You're in luck if you reside in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas, or Vermont. Not every cashier knows the law, so be ready to explain your case to a manager.

2. Costco is the largest wine retailer in the U.S.

Wine makes up nearly half of the big box store's yearly alcohol sales. The most recent number Costco shared was $1.69 billion in 2016 wine sales, which placed it as the country's largest wine seller.

3. You can stock your entire bar with Kirkland brand booze.

Kirkland-branded wine was first produced in 2003, followed by hard alcohol in 2007 and later craft beer. Now, you can buy nearly every spirit under Costco's signature in-house label: American and French vodka, Scotch, whiskey, bourbon, rum tequila, and gin.

4. Big-name brands make some Kirkland spirits.

Here are the rumored names behind the bottles.

  • Kirkland beer is brewed by Gordon Biersch.
  • Kirkland Scotch are distilled by either Alexander Murray and Macallan Distillery.
  • Kirkland bourbon and rum is produced by Jim Beam.
  • Kirkland vodka is made from the same water source and by the same employees that Grey Goose uses.
  • Kirkland tequila is produced in the same distillery as Cielo tequila.

5. Costco's wine markups are half that of most stores.

Many boutique wine shops sell bottles for up to 50 percent more than what the wholesale price is. Costco's markups hover around 14 percent. That means, the cost of the same bottle of wine purchased at Costco versus another retailer could differ greatly &mdash in Costco's favor.

6. Keep an eye out for asterisks.

If you see this tiny star (*) in the upper right hand corner of a sign, it means Costco has the item on clearance. This is when you'll get the best deal, but it also might be the last time Costco restocks the product. Scoop up as many bottles while you can.

7. You can keep those empty wood wine cases that are lying around.

You know how Costco keeps empty cardboard boxes near checkout registers that are free for the taking? Same goes for any empty wine cases you see in the aisles. Designers go nuts for them, so take note: They make great-looking storage bins.

8. Don't try to return alcohol.

Costco is known for its insanely liberal return policy, but they don't budge on booze. It doesn't matter if your bottles are opened or sealed Costco won't give you a refund, so bottoms up.


10 Interesting Things You Never Knew About Costco

We all have a man named Mr. Price to thank for this retail superstore.

Costco is known for being a one-stop bulk shop for all your household items &mdash and also a few more wacky things, like a giant (!) Teddy bear. But there's also a lot of history (and some insider secrets!) to this popular chain. Here's what you should know before your next shopping excursion:

1. The founder was mentored by someone named Mr. Price (how appropriate?).

Jim Sinegal was the protege of Sol Price, who opened Price Club in 1976, which was the original retail warehouse club concept. Sinegal set out on his own and opened the first Costco in Seattle, Washington in 1983 with Jeffrey H. Brotman, but (to come full circle) the two companies merged in 1993 to become the company we've come to know today.

2. It's the second largest retailer in the United States.

Second only to Walmart, Costco's not hurting for shoppers: 79 million customers seek out this superstore every year even though there's an annual membership fee that ranges from $55 (for basic coverage) to $110.

3. You don't actually need a membership to shop there.

Well, as long as you know someone else who is a member. If you do, ask them to buy you a Costco Cash Card &mdash it's basically a gift card &mdash which gives you shopping access to these mega stores.

4. The price tag conveys a lot more than just how much each item costs.

File this under insider knowledge: If the price ends in .97, that means the item is on clearance. Spot an asterisk in the top right corner of a shelf? That means the item won't be coming back &mdash so you better stock up!

5. The company sells 157,000 rotisserie chickens every day.

Partly because they stick to a price point of $4.99, which they've said ends up losing them $30 million to $40 million every year &mdash but it sure does make their customers happy. So happy that there's a fan page on Facebook dedicated to these affordable dinners.

6. They're also the nation's second largest car dealer.

In fact, they sold almost 400,000 automobiles in 2014. Unfortunately for them, they don't make a profit from the sales, since the company is only an intermediary between a dealer and the customer. All in the name of providing the most bang for the membership buck.

7. And if you're going on vacation, they have a discount travel site, too.

Hello, cheaper cruises, rental cars, and theme park tickets.

8. But you won't find tobacco on their shelves.

The company recently stopped selling it. Even though we wish we could tell you it was part of a public health campaign, it was actually a business decision. The company said these products has very low margins, higher theft rates, and are labor intensive.

9. An adorable couple got married in one of the chain's frozen food aisles.

But it makes total sense once you find out this is where they first met. Talk about returning to the scene of the crime.


10 of the Best Healthy Groceries You Can Buy at Costco Right Now

Buy in bulk and save money on your next healthy food haul.

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UNITED STATES - AUGUST 06: Lyn Fencl and her children Sarah, 4, left, Alex, 6, center, and Ben, 5, wheel their groceries to the parking lot at a Costco Wholesale Corp. store in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008. Sales at U.S. retailers dropped in July for the first time in five months as record gasoline prices siphoned some of the tax rebates out of consumers' pockets. (Photo by D. Kevin Elliott/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eating better doesn't have to mean spending a fortune on healthy groceries at the supermarket on a regular basis. There are plenty of healthy products at Costco that you can buy in bulk. When you sign up for a membership, you gain access more of your favorite healthy snacks and pantry staples, meaning fewer trips to the store and lots of savings. These are the 10 must-buy groceries to keep your healthy eating resolutions on track.

Vegan Queso

If you’re letting go of dairy for a diet or have decided to go vegan, this cauliflower-based dip is here to make that transition a little easier. According to recent reviews on Instagram, this new tub is a delicious substitute for regular queso and actually tastes like the real stuff!

Kind Fruit Nut Variety Pack

Reiterating the need for snacks, Kind’s variety of fruit- and nut-filled bars are an easy pick-me-up or early morning bite. And now, Kind nut bars reflect new nutritional information. According to new research from the USDA, nuts like almonds and cashews contain fewer calories than previously thought, resulting in a lower calorie count on Kind nut bars. These bars have 10-30 fewer calories than before, and all nutrients like protein and healthy fat levels have stayed the same, says Kind.

Kirkland Signature Unsalted Mixed Nuts

Nuts are one of those things we think you should always buy at Costco. The price per-pound is enough to justify a solo order for a large jar of this protein-packed snack.

Skinny Pop Popcorn

It’s always nice to have plenty of snacks on-hand, especially if you’re feeding a family. Keep a box of these 100-calorie bags of Skinny Pop around, so you always have something quick (and pre-portioned) at the ready when a craving hits.

Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs

These baked chickpea puffs standout amongst other cheddar-flavored snacks. They are organic, non-gmo, gluten-free and vegan. Not to mention, our editors love them. At only 130 calories per serving (with four grams of plant-based protein), it’s worth grabbing any flavor: Vegan White Cheddar, Nacho Vibes, Bohemian Barbecue, Sriracha Sunrise or Himilayan Happiness.

Kirkland Signature Nature's Three Berry Blend

Tis the season for a delicious smoothie, meaning frozen fruit is essential. Stock up on frozen berries from Costco, so you’re never caught without your new morning go-to drink.

Kirkland Creamy Almond Butter

Keeping a jar of nut butter, whether that be almond or cashew, is a great idea for a filling snack high in protein. Spread it over toast or over an apple for a quick and satisfying meal. Buying this product in bulk is sure to save you in the long run.

Morningstar Farms Chipotle Black Bean Burger

Are you participating in meatless Mondays? Or are you making a resolution to limit your meat consumption in your diet? These black bean burgers are about to be your new favorite substitute. Plus, they're a favorite among nutritionists, too.

Brew Dr. Organic Kombucha Variety Pack

A satisfying swig of carbonated, probiotic-filled kombucha is just what you need when you are craving something other than water. Grab a six-pack at Costco, so you're never without a bottle.


Speaking of wholesale costs, did you know there’s a secret pricing signal you should look for when buying Costco clothes — or anything from any of the store’s other departments, for that matter?

Here’s the deal: When you see anything that ends in 97 cents at Costco, that means it’s being sold below cost.

As a general rule, you’ll find most of the 97s in the seasonal section — located in the back third of the middle of the store. But keep your eyes peeled for select discount items in apparel, too.


7 Insider Tricks and Tips for Shopping Costco Online

Costco’s main goal is to get us in the stores. With loss leaders like the $1.50 hot dog and the $5 rotisserie chicken, Costco’s corner office big-wigs know that once members enter, impulse buys are inevitable. However, that sales strategy changes once you move the shopping cart online. Seen as an extension of the inventory, not a replica, Costco.com is a different kind of shopping experience, offering much that is unexpected.

Here’s what you need to know about shopping Costco online.

1. You can shop online without a membership … sort of.

While lots of items on Costco.com are for members only (see the next point), you can shop for some things without a Costco membership. There is a five percent surcharge for non-members, though, so depending on what you’re buying (and how often you’re buying it), it might be worth forking over the membership fee instead.

Instacart delivers Costco’s same-day grocery delivery items regardless of warehouse membership status. Just note: Non-members ordering through Instacart’s website pay a higher price than members choosing same-day delivery directly from Costco. There is a $35 minimum order and you won’t get full access to the warehouse deals. And Instacart’s offerings are limited to the departments you’d find in a standard grocery store.

2. Some deals are for members only.

If you are a member, make sure you’ve got your membership number handy before you sit down to browse Costco.com. For many items (think: electronics and kitchen appliances) you have to log in just to even view the price.

3. The return policy can not be beat.

It’s hard not to fill your cart whether you’re walking the warehouse aisles or clicking through the website. If buyer’s remorse hits, know that Costco.com’s return policy is just as generous as the brick-and-mortar locations. Returns from Costco.com will be completely refunded — including shipping and handling fees. Return items by mail free of charge or stop by the customer service desk in warehouse.

4. Costco.com price matches with Costco.com.

Purchases made on Costco.com are eligible for a credit if there is a promotion for the item within 30 days of purchase. Simply request a price match online and, if eligible, your account will be credited. It’s important to note that Costco will not price match with other stores or websites.

5. You can shop Costco.com for specialty groceries.

The warehouse options for gluten-free flours and mixes, imported olive oils, and quality spices seems to multiply with each visit. And Costco.com offers even more specialty items — ranging from coffee, tea, flours, and cakes to fine meats and cheeses. Also available are super-splurge items like 6.6-pounds of Nutella and a 72-pound wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

6. Shipping costs can vary.

Let’s face it: Free two-day Amazon Prime shipping has us all spoiled. Costco.com does offer members free two-day delivery on select non-perishable groceries and household items — when you spend $75 or more. Although, sometimes the prices are lower in-store. (In most metropolitan areas there’s also same-day delivery, through Instacart, which, again, can be more expensive.)

For other items on Costco.com there’s no guarantee how much or how little you’ll pay for shipping, as the fees aren’t consistent across the board. A large number of items ship for free, while others carry their own individual shipping rates.

7. Costco.com is the place to book a vacation.

Looking to book a trip for the family? Costco.com offers various vacation packages that are exclusive to members. We’re talking Walt Disney World (and Disneyland) packages, safaris in South Africa, and cruises through the Caribbean.

Got any other tips and tricks for shopping on Costco.com? Share them in the comments below!

Patty is a freelance recipe developer who worked as Alton Brown’s Research Coordinator & Podcast Producer and in the Oxmoor House test kitchen. She loves maple syrup, coffee and board games. Patty lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children.


Kirkland Signature Gourmet Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Icatnews/Shutterstock

Walking into Costco's bakery aisle is kind of like strolling into an Auntie Anne's—the wafting smell of baked goods is enough to spark cravings. Unfortunately, these chocolate chip treats won't make your scale too chipper. Each cookie contains five grams of saturated fat and 16 grams of sugar.


3. You May Receive Perks the Cell Phone Carriers Don’t Offer

If the cell phones and plans are the same as the wireless providers, what’s the big deal? That would be Costco’s member-only specials!

“In addition to whatever deal you might get from your cell phone carrier to trade in your old phone or buy a pair of phones, Costco will give you additional bonuses,” Clark says.

Those bonuses may include free or discounted phones, waived activation fees and even Costco Cash gift cards. See the latest offers here.

Costco Wireless Center – Miami, Florida


5 Things You Should Know About Shopping Online at Costco - Recipes

For many Costco members, a visit to the popular warehouse store isn’t complete without a trip to their food court. Whether it’s a gargantuan slice of saggy, cheesy pizza, a somewhat mysterious chicken bake, or an ice cream sundae, the food here always seems to taste amazing after an hours-long jaunt through the Costco gauntlet. But what exactly is the deal with the hot food Costco sells? We’ve got the answers to all your Costco food court questions.

The food court at Costco can trace its roots all the way back to its predecessor, Price Club. That chain, which was one of the pioneers in charging members an annual fee to be able to buy bulk products at rock-bottom prices in a no-frills environment, was actually founded by a guy named Price (Sol Price, to be exact). Price Club merged with Costco in 1993. Today, there are Costco locations outside the U.S., in countries including Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Australia, and the U.K., and nearly all of them have their own food court.

Visit any Costco in America when you travel and it’ll look just like the one in your own city, right down to the food court (a couple locations inexplicably don’t have one, and we feel for shoppers at those). Some food courts are inside and some are outside, but the menu will be essentially the same: chicken Caesar salad, hot dog or Polish sausage, pizza, sundaes… The only surprise tends to be the price, which is astonishingly low and never seems to increase, especially for the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. There’s something comforting about knowing that the jumbo-size slice of pizza you rewarded yourself with after walking at least five miles around the store will still be there the next time you visit.

Whether no trip to the chain is complete for you without a chicken bake or you’ve never ventured to see what the pizza is really all about (it’s limp but somehow still delicious in a greasy kind of way), after you read this, no trip to Costco will ever be the same. Learn 11 things you probably didn’t know about the dependable, affordable Costco food court.


11 Things You Didn't Know About Costco

Often much less maligned than its retail warehouse counterparts, Costco has developed a sort of cult following among thrifty shoppers and supporters of workers' rights alike. But if you're one of these wholesale superfans, how much do you truly know about the company?

You may have heard that the first Costco warehouse opened in Seattle and that their Kirkland brand was originally supposed to be "Seattle Signature." Perhaps you're also aware that the company spends no money on advertisements, instead hoping programs like their "treasure hunts," which feature steep but limited-time discounts on luxury -- and occasionally outlandish -- items, will keep customers coming back. But if you're a true die-hard fan of the shopping mecca, you'll need to read on for the true treasures.

Time to earn that Gold Star!


Image: Instagram account @ambermarielove3

1. Costco is actually one of America's largest pizza chains.

Although Costco's current CEO, Craig Jelinek, claims he never touches the pizza, the super large and cheesy slices have become an American cult favorite. Nobody really considers Costco to be a "pizza chain," but with more than 400 stores in the United States, all but a couple with food courts, it is one the biggest pizza sellers in the country. That's just slightly behind giants such as Chuck E. Cheese and CiCi's, and far more than the roughly 265 locations of California Pizza Kitchen. If you feel like their food court pizza doesn't make Costco a true pizzeria, then maybe their "Pizza Hotline," which allows customers to call in pizza orders ahead, will convince you.

Of course, their food courts are also famous for other items, like the hot dog and soda combo which has kept its price of $1.50 for almost three decades.

Image Left: Twitter account @HallieStufano & Image Right: Twitter account @BrielleZolciak

2. They once offered full barrels of Jack Daniel's whiskey.

Costco regularly rotates their partnerships with alcohol companies so this doesn't appear to be currently available, but there was a time when you could buy an actual "single barrel" of Jack Daniels' whiskey for $8499.99. Sam's Club ended up selling the same thing so this wasn't exactly an exclusive, but the Walmart-owned brand sold the barrel for more than $1100 more than Costco's price. Although the barrel is kind of hard to top, Costco's Kirkland brand has also made interesting alcohol partnerships, such as an official version of luxury scotch The Macallan. What makes these Kirkland partnerships special is that they sell for much cheaper than the brands usually go for themselves.

Other non-alcoholic "treasure" purchases in the past have included wedding dresses and a $1 million engagement ring.

3. Their employee wages and benefits are well above competitors.

Costco has been called the "anti-Walmart" by publications from The New York Times to Gawker, and this is largely because of the way Costco compensates its employees.

From Bloomberg Businessweek's 2013 profile of the company:

Despite the sagging economy and challenges to the industry, Costco pays its hourly workers an average of $20.89 an hour, not including overtime (vs. the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour). By comparison, Walmart said its average wage for full-time employees in the U.S. is $12.67 an hour, according to a letter it sent in April to activist Ralph Nader. Eighty-eight percent of Costco employees have company-sponsored health insurance Walmart says that “more than half” of its do. Costco workers with coverage pay premiums that amount to less than 10 percent of the overall cost of their plans. It treats its employees well in the belief that a happier work environment will result in a more profitable company. “I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits,” says Jelinek. “It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple."

This treatment of employees has often upset Wall Street. As one analyst from Deutsche Bank wonderfully summed up, "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."

4. That said, some workers you see at Costco receive low pay and no benefits.

Costco works through contracting companies like Club Demonstration Services for help with certain store functions. These companies often don't offer benefits and pay much lower wages than Costco. This appears to mostly involve the workers who hand out the much sought after free samples.

Reports have said people from these third-party contractors count for up to 10 percent of in-store Costco workers, though this number is unconfirmed. CDS did not respond to a request for comment.

5. Costco's founder was literally mentored by someone named Mr. Price.

Sol Price, the founder of FedMart.

Founder Jim Sinegal was once served as executive vice president for merchandising at one of the original wholesale retailers, FedMart, and became the protégé of its chairman, Sol Price.

Although not quite as directly, Price's business was the inspiration for Walmart as well. Walmart founder Sam Walton wrote in his book "Made In America" that he named his company Walmart because of the "mart" in FedMart.

Price apparently often told a joke about other retail executives meeting him and saying, “Sol, you are the father of everything we have inherited.” To which Price replied, “I really wish I had worn a condom.”

Mr. Price started FedMart in San Diego during the early 1950s and would also end up creating another warehouse store called Price Club in 1976, which Costco would eventually buy.

6. You can buy "doomsday supplies" and caskets at Costco.

If you're feeling particularly morbid about society's future, you can always go to Costco's Emergency Kits & Supplies page to order things like the "Emergency Cube," which provides over 30,000 servings of food with a shelf life of 25 years. That'll only set you back $4000!

Costco also has a pretty good selection of coffins that can even be ordered online.

7. Bibles at the store were labeled as "fiction" for a brief time.

In late 2013, Costco accidentally labeled a "small percentage" of its Bibles as "fiction," which set off an uproar. The company quickly apologized, blaming their distributors for mislabeling the books.

The company has also sold a book called "The Brick Bible." It's like the Bible, but with Legos . and some mildly NSFW images like this. Sam's Club banned it, but you could still find it at Costco.

8. The apple pie from "American Pie" was reportedly bought at a Costco.

According to IMDb, the apple pie from iconic '90s movie "American Pie" was purchased at Costco. For those who don't remember, the scene features actor Jason Biggs violating an apple pie, only to have his father walk in and catch him in the act.

9. Costco often doesn't always get along with big name brands, including Tiffany & Co. and Apple.

Costco has had a history of conflict with some famous brands. A shortlist:

Tiffany & Company: In February of 2013, the jewelry company filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit because Costco was selling rings labeled "Tiffany engagement rings," despite the jewelry not being authentic.

Apple: Costco stopped carrying Apple products in 2010, after only being allowed to sell the iPod in stores and being barred from selling any Apple products online. An ongoing animosity seems to exist between the companies.

Coca-Cola: After Coca-Cola failed to give Costco the price they wanted, the retailer took all of the soda off their shelves in 2009. This lasted about a month, until Costco felt they had won the negotiation battle. In 2013, Costco pulled Coca-Cola from their food courts and replaced it with Pepsi after a similar price disagreement.

Starbucks: Starbucks once failed to pass along savings to Costco after a price cut in coffee beans, which led the warehouse to threaten to pull all of their coffee products from their stores. Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz reportedly called Costco owner Jim Sinegal and asked, "Who do you think you are? The price police?" Sinegal answered, "yes."

10. The company refrains from hiring business school graduates.

Costco makes an attempt to hire managerial and higher-level positions from within the company. Some people who started working on the floor have even been subsidized by the company to get their graduate degrees. In an aim to keep a consistent employee culture, Costco actually doesn't hire business school graduates, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek profile from 2013.

11. Costco is the largest importer of high-end French wines.

Costco employs lead wine buyer Annette Alvarez-Peters, who is considered one of the most powerful wine buyers in the world and oversees the retailer's massive wine business. According to a 2012 report by CNBC, "Costco is the world's largest importer of high-end French wines."

Much like the liquors mentioned above, the Kirkland wines are usually just less-expensive versions of other well-respected wines.